Competition… Is it a good or bad thing? Does it help or hurt your business as a photographer? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Does competition frustrate you? Or do you embrace it? Here are some of my thoughts on competition as it pertains to my actions and training business and also to the photography industry.
I often get asked, “Does it bother you that so many people create and sell Photoshop actions now?” When I read photography forums and blogs, I see action makers popping up all over. When I first started selling actions and training photographers, I could count my competition on one hand.
When I first started my Photoshop actions and training business back in 2006, I had 2 action sets and the one-on-one Photoshop training. I can only think of a handful of companies that sold actions at that time and nobody who offered one on one training. The ironic thing is that the first few years of my business I had very little competition and I had fairly low income. Now it seems you can almost buy actions and training at Wal-Mart or McDonalds, well not really but you get the idea. And with all the extra competition, my business is more successful than ever. I have a full line of products alongside private and group online workshops, and my blog now gets close to 100,000 unique visitors a month. I definitely credit social networking with some of my growth. But that aside, you might wonder how can you be more successful with more competition? So I analyzed what I do to separate myself from my competition and why I have grown my business, and hope these tips help you too.
- Awareness: With all the competition came awareness. Photographers now know more about actions and are familiar with the benefits. Back in 2006 many were unaware. With photography, the same concept applies. Sure, you may see those who shoot and burn, come into your market. But, when more professional photographers exist, more people will understand the true benefits of hiring a pro as well.
- Hard work: Working hard and smart is so important. Very few businesses evolve with luck alone. I know my business would not be where it is if I did not put my energy into it.
- Customer service: Provide a great product and amazing customer service. I aim to do this in all facets of my business. If you do this, it will separate you from your competition.
- Presentation: Create a strong brand and you will stand out from the crowd. If you build a solid brand and reputation, you will find you have less competition. People will want to have “you” photograph them. You are the only “you.” No other photographer can sell that!
- Stop worrying about your actual competition: Rather than spend all your time and energy frustrated about what other photographers are doing, use that energy to grow your skills and reputation.
- Remember that not all photographers are your competition: Every day I hear photographers who charge higher prices complain about lower priced photographers, especially ones selling CDs/DVDs of images for low prices. Shoot-and-burn photographers typically cater to different customers than high-end photographers. In some cases skills will be similar, in other cases the work and experience will separate them. Just like at the mall with department stores, Neiman Marcus or Saks probably do not worry about Sears. If you have a $1,000+ average sale, you are not competing with those who make $100 per customer.
- Be true to yourself: If you genuinely love what you do, the business will follow. That said, you need to make sure you have the skills in marketing and in photography. When you do what you love, it shows in your work.
- There is enough business for everyone: Of course some of this depends on your goals and the size of your audience, but for the most part there is enough business to go around. For me, think of how many photographers there are who own Photoshop. How many people are making actions or providing training classes? In the end, how many sales and how many people do I need purchasing from me to make the income I desire? The % is very small. So in the same way I do not need every photographer to know who I am or buy from me, you do not need every person in your city or town to buy from you, unless of course you have a town of 30-50 families. Now apply this to your photography business.
- How many people are in your town?
- How many professional photographers are there?
- How many areas are within easy drive? And what are there populations?
- How many portrait sessions/weddings, etc. do you need to make your desired income?
- See where this is going? Chances are for most of you, you just washed away the need to worry about competition.
- Broaden your audience: If you run into your competition too much, maybe you need to find new places to find customers. For me, this meant diversifying and targeting places other than just photography forums. It also meant me creating a blog that has lots of word of mouth. For you, this may mean trying other forums of advertising, reaching beyond your specific neighborhood or town, or getting creative with how you get your name out there.
- Make friends: Network in your local community and online. Utilize social media, blogging, mom groups, wedding coordinators, your child’s school, local businesses, etc. Get your name out there so it is at the top of everyone’s referral list when people start asking.
- Build partnerships with your competition: Partner with those you consider competition. While this will not work in all situations and for all people, consider giving this a try. Two are stronger than one. Look for win-win scenarios. Reach out to photographers in your area. You may just find that you have a wedding someone wants you to shoot and you are booked. You can refer it to them. Or you may find that you have a newborn shoot with twins and could really use an extra set of hands. If you partner with the “right” photographers, and that is key, it can grow your business and theirs. Just make sure everyone is winning. And remember, no need to be selfish. If you both can make more money doing what you love, isn’t that what it is all about?
As a photographer, you can choose to embrace competition and become stronger, or you can let it eat at you, consume you, and often hurt your business. So back to the original question, “does the competition bother me?” When I started my business, competitors bothered me. I worried it would take away from my business. Once I gained confidence and learned to believe in myself, I learned to work with some of my competitors and overall, it has been magical. In the end it is WIN – WIN – WIN. My customers win – my “competition” wins, and I win.
So I challenge each of you to start thinking of competition in a new way. If you agree, disagree, or if you have experiences to share, I want to hear your thoughts on competition. How do you deal with competition? Have you found ways to embrace competition? Does my answer to how I feel about competition help you think of things you could do differently in your business? Please share thoughts and comments here so that each of you can create a WIN – WIN exchange of ideas on the topic.